Moldova Sees Contagion in Russian Intervention in Crimea

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca said Russia’s incursion into Crimea, an autonomous province of Ukraine, could be replicated in other countries in the region.

“It is just a very dangerous development,” Leanca said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York today. “It’s indeed very contagious.”

Moldova, the smallest economy in central and eastern Europe after Kosovo, shares a border with Ukraine and depends on Russia for its natural gas needs. Leanca, who has been Moldova’s prime minister since April 2013, said he is “very anxious” about the developments in Crimea and called on President Barack Obama during a meeting this week to provide “strong U.S. leadership” together with the European Union.

A lack of progress in integrating Ukraine and Moldova into the EU have made the countries more vulnerable to Russian interference, said Leanca, 50. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent thousands of troops to Crimea over the past week. Moldova faces its own challenges in secessionist Transnistria, an industrial region adjoining Ukraine that has Russian military presence.

‘Difficult Situation’

“We are in a very difficult situation because we fight for certain values and for certain objectives when there’s no response,” Leanca said. “We need a common vision that should be shared by Washington, Paris, Berlin and some other European states. Otherwise is very difficult to keep this objective alive.”

Leanca said his country needs the U.S. and EU to show “a strong involvement in this Transnistria conflict, for instance, because we can’t address it on our own.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said this week that the U.S. would provide an additional $2.8 million in aid to develop economic competitiveness in Moldova, which has a population of 3.6 million. Leanca said the response he received from both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden “was positive.”

An administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said Obama is sensitive to concerns from Moldova and former Soviet republics that have large Russian populations or worry about territorial integrity. Meetings with such leaders in recent days are meant to show U.S. solidarity, the official said today.

Wine, Tobacco

Moldova’s $7.25 billion economy grew 8 percent in the first nine months of 2013, according to the statistics office. The production of fruit, wine and tobacco account for about half of Moldova’s exports and almost a third of employment, according to a report by Steven Woehrel of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in Washington.

Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov met in Paris today as Americans weigh whether to attach sanctions to penalize Russia and restore stability in Ukraine. The two didn’t reach any agreement at the meeting.

The EU today promised 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in emergency aid to help the Ukrainian government avert a default. U.S. officials have said they are preparing $1 billion in loan guarantees.

“Ninety-nine percent would depend on how Western countries reacts to this,” Leanca said. “So far they are encouraging.”

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